(These are my musings, written in hospital, more diary entry than blogpost)
In Antibiotics, I trust
It’s 23:51 on Saturday 12 February 2022. I’m back as an in-patient at Littondale Ward, nearly four years ago to the day that I was last in here when I had sepsis. My drip pumps fluids into me. It’s been a tough few days.
I’m the youngest on the ward, by 30 years. So, everyone asks me – what I do for a living. It’s always a bit tricky to talk about it at such times.
I have Pyelonephritis. Essentially a kidney infection which has risen up the body. 111, ambulance, A and E and now however many days I need to stay here.
I’m glad I came in when I did. If I didn’t, kidney damage can be permanent. Perhaps it still will be. I read that this condition kills 7.4% of people who get it. But I suspect that most are older men.
I’ve been treated fairly well. The staff are very pleasant. Due to my temperature, I was placed on the Covid unit for 6 hours, which makes sense. No lunch or tea. Thankfully, this evening Julia delivered my bag, complete with food. I don’t know what people do when they have no loved ones close by.
I haven’t seen any specialists, but that will come. Staggering to the bathroom (details to be spared, suffice to say that it’s unpleasant) with my drip tripod-thing-on-wheels, with my blood visible up and down the tube, is something I’d like to forget.
My advice to any reader is to understand your body and to dispassionately read around your medical condition, making your own mind up. We know our bodies best. Night.
I’ve become like a phone charger
Well, that was a memorable night. Dehumanising on one level, yet I’m filled with immeasurable gratitude for the endeavours of my carers, working Saturday night shifts, doing the work of the angels. My eyes fill with tears as I type that sentence, for I couldn’t do this for a living.
Dehumanising in that, for the nearly 24 hours I have been here, I’ve spent most of that time connected to a drip. Each time the drip is changed – from this antibiotic, to another; to fluids and anything else I cannot figure out – nobody really asks for my permission. They just do it. I feel like the utility phone charger in a hotel: used by all the guests, often roughly but necessarily so, repeatedly being plugged and unplugged.
The legal case of Montgomery- which deals with patient consent in a medical setting – has crossed my mind each time, for it was frequently being breached, but perhaps this was the right thing to do, though not strictly lawful.
Bathroom “breaks” are a frequent challenge. Each “success” feels like scoring a goal.
Urologist has just told me I need to stay another day, and that it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be able to go on holiday next week with the kids. I’m quite upset.
The man next to me still snores – it’s 9:30am – as he has done all night, at such a high decibel level that I could claim for noise-induced hearing loss. He’s disrupted those of us under 80 in here, but I only feel pity for him, as he looks so unwell. He sounds so unwell. I wish him well. Sleep, though, might help the rest of us to recover.
The Kindness of strangers
It’s 19:40 on Sunday night. My neighbour – out of the blue – has bought me a gluten-free snack. He’s the one who kept us all awake all night with his mammoth-like snores. He must have heard my repeated requests for gluten-free food, often to no avail. It’s really touched me. We haven’t really spoken. I’ve always known that humans are 99.9% good: this gesture is life-affirming.
A new man arrives. He’s far younger than me and clearly very poorly. We’re all rooting for him, but nobody has said a word. It’s unspoken. There’s always someone worse off in here.
The nurses change the elderly men with such dignity. I’d rather not hear it, or smell it – for their sake and mine – but it truly is inspiring. I bury my head in my phone.
And then we all overhear a doctor giving the “end of life” discussion to an elderly man at the other end of our 6-man ward. Does he want his heart restarting, if it fails? I’m watching football on the iPad, unable to concentrate on it: what will his wish be? Will his heart stop tonight?
The inhabitants of this ward shouldn’t have all heard that, particularly the new guy, gasping for air. That was such a delicate conversation. The doctor was, simply, perfect, though. Not an easy conversation to have with someone. When the time comes for me, I’d want to be spoken to like that.
I guess we are all bearing our everything in here. I can’t work out whether it’s appalling that this lack of privacy pervades in 2022, or whether this war-type spirit is good for us all.
One chap has the sweetest of sweet tooths, almost childlike in his requests for biscuits. It makes everyone smile. Who knew that the NHS does chocolate milk on tap?
The staff are unfailingly kind. I’ve never been anywhere where the staff are universally so willing to help, and they don’t stop either. And they’re so diverse, far more so than the population of Harrogate. The accents do cause some of the elderly men some confusion.
In macro terms, the structure and processes of the NHS need an honest rethink. But the kindness on display from the staff here is unsurpassable.
I hope to go home tomorrow (which I do).